With the colder months creeping in, our feathered friends outside could do with a little extra help to find enough food. One of the best ways to support them is by providing fat balls, a nutritious snack that’s packed with energy. Not only is it an act of kindness towards wildlife, but feeding birds can also be incredibly rewarding, offering you the chance to observe a variety of species up close. This guide will walk you through the simple steps to create your homemade fat balls for birds, ensuring you contribute positively to the welfare of your local bird population.

Why Fat Balls?

Fat balls, also known as suet balls, are made from a mixture of fats and other ingredients like seeds, nuts, and grains, making them an ideal source of high energy food, especially crucial during winter. They provide essential fats and proteins that help keep birds warm and nourished during the colder days when their natural food sources may be scarce.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Unsalted Lard or Beef Suet: These fats act as a binder for the other ingredients and provide the high-calorie content needed for the birds’ diet.
  • Bird Seed Mix: You can buy a pre-mixed bag or create your mix with sunflower seeds, millet, and nyjer seeds, which are popular among a variety of bird species.
  • Oats or Unsweetened Breakfast Cereal: These act as fillers and provide extra nutrition.
  • Raisins or Other Dried Fruit (optional): Great for an added energy boost.
  • Unsalted Peanuts or Chopped Nuts (optional): A great source of fats and proteins.

Step-by-step Guide to Making Fat Balls

Step 1: Prepare Your Mixture

  1. Begin by gently melting the lard or beef suet in a saucepan over low heat. It’s crucial not to overheat the fat as it can become dangerous if it starts to spit.
  2. Once melted, remove the saucepan from the heat and add your bird seed mix, oats or cereal, and any optional ingredients like nuts or dried fruit. The ratio of fat to dry ingredients should be 50:50.
  3. Stir the mixture well until all the ingredients are coated in the fat.

Step 2: Shape the Fat Balls

  1. Allow the mixture to cool slightly until it starts to thicken but remains pliable.
  2. With your hands (you might want to wear gloves), start shaping the mixture into balls. The size can vary, but typically, a ball slightly larger than a golf ball works well.
  3. If you plan to hang your fat balls, now is the time to insert a loop of twine into each ball. Ensure the loop is securely embedded.

Step 3: Set and Store

  1. Once shaped, place the fat balls on a tray lined with parchment paper and leave them in a cool place to set. This could take a few hours or ideally, leave them overnight.
  2. After they’ve set, the fat balls are ready to be used. Any extras can be stored in a cool, dry place or even frozen for future use.

Tips for Feeding Birds

  • Always remove any mesh bags or packaging before putting out fat balls, as birds can become tangled in them.
  • Place your fat balls in a feeder or directly on a bird table. If hanging, ensure they are positioned where birds have a clear view of incoming threats.
  • Regularly clean your bird feeders to prevent the spread of diseases among local bird populations.


Making your fat balls for birds is not only a simple and enjoyable activity, but it also contributes significantly to supporting your local wildlife, especially during the harsher months. By following this straightforward guide, you can ensure that your garden becomes a haven for birds, providing them with the vital nourishment they need to survive and thrive. Happy bird watching!